Final

Saints 22

(10-3, 4-3 away)

Titans 17

(7-6, 4-3 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 11, 2011

LP Field, Nashville, TN 

1 2 3 4 T
NO 3 3 3 1322
TEN 0 3 7 717

Top Performers

Passing: D. Brees (NO) - 337 YDS, 2 TD

Rushing: C. Ivory (NO) - 13 CAR, 53 YDS

Receiving: N. Washington (TEN) - 6 REC, 130 YDS, 1 TD

Saints streak past Jake Locker, Titans to clinch playoff berth

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- New Orleans got a wake-up call from the Tennessee Titans and Drew Brees came through to keep the Saints' winning streak going.

Unable to reach the end zone through three quarters, the Saints got a pair of touchdown passes from Brees to Marques Colston in the final 15 minutes to beat the Titans 22-17 on Sunday.

"It was a gut-check win for us," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "A lot of things early on didn't go our way. We had some calls that could have went either way. We just kept fighting and won a good game on the road against a good team."

Now the Saints (10-3) have won five straight and remain in the lead of the NFC South with three games left in the regular season. They clinched a playoff berth when the Chicago Bears lost in overtime to the Denver Broncos later Sunday.

They got another strong performance from Brees, who joined Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas as the only quarterbacks to throw a touchdown pass in 40 straight games.

On third-and-6, Brees threw 35 yards to a wide-open Colston, who jumped into the air just in front of the goal line at the middle of the field, caught the ball and fell forward into the end zone, making it 16-10 with 12:39 to play.

The Saints converted two third downs on their next drive before Brees connected again with Colston on a scoring pass, this time for 28 yards.

The touchdown gave New Orleans a 22-10 lead with 7:01 left, and Colston finished with 105 yards on seven catches.

"We knew they were going to get yards," Tennessee safety Michael Griffin said. "Drew knows how to dissect a defense."

Brees was 36 for 47 for 337 yards and completed passes to nine different Saints. He has 39,413 yards passing in 150 career starts, which ranks just behind the 39,498 yards passing Dan Marino achieved in his first 150 starts.

The Titans (7-6) twice had the ball in the final minutes with a chance to win.

Their loss allowed the Houston Texans, which won at Cincinnati on Sunday, to clinch the AFC South and kept them from gaining any ground in a crowded race for the second AFC wild-card spot.

"As bad as this one's going to hurt ... we can't let this one cost us anymore games," Titans coach Mike Munchak said. "We have three games, we have to win all three games."

Jake Locker hit Nate Washington on an 18-yard pass on second down, and Chris Johnson ran 3 yards around the left end to convert a fourth-and-1 to keep the drive alive.

Faced with another fourth down at the Saints 24 with 2:18 left, Locker kept the ball. Though a replay seemed to show he picked up the needed yard, the officials ruled him down with no gain, and the Titans did not challenge the ruling.

Tennessee held New Orleans on the next drive, and Washington caught a 40-yard pass from Locker with 27 seconds left, setting up another chance for a Titans rally.

Locker spiked the ball at the Saints 5 to stop the clock, but his pass on second down to Marc Mariani in the end zone was batted down by Tracy Porter, and Jo-Lonn Dunbar sacked a scrambling Locker on third down as time expired.

"I was just hoping they didn't throw a flag. I kind of grabbed him by the helmet," Dunbar said. "It was definitely a lot of relief to see those guys jumping, and with that excitement, you can't put a price tag on that."

The rookie quarterback entered the game with the score 3-3 with 11:13 left in the second quarter, replacing Matt Hasselbeck.

Hasselbeck hurt his left calf after trying to chase a pass of his that had been tipped and left the field and watched most of the game from the sideline, filling in for Locker on a single play after the backup took a hard hit.

Locker was 13 for 29 for 282 yards and a touchdown, and Washington finished with 130 yards on six catches and a score. Johnson, who was coming off consecutive games with more than 150 yards rushing, had just 23 yards on 11 carries.

Locker ran for a second touchdown, scrambling around the right end and meeting Roman Harper at the corner of the end zone. He stretched the ball over the pylon with his right hand as he spun in the air, and the play was upheld on review to make it 10-9 with 2:19 in the third quarter.

Washington caught a 40-yard TD pass from Locker and broke a tackle before tripping into the end zone to cut New Orleans' lead to 22-17 with 5:58 left.

Penalties and other mistakes kept New Orleans' league-leading offense from getting any rhythm through three quarters, and three times the Saints got within 11 yards of the end zone only to settle for a field goal. John Kasay kicked field goals of 29, 25 and 22 yards to help the Saints build a 9-3 third-quarter lead.

The Saints also missed another scoring opportunity early in the first half. Darren Sproles returned a punt 82 yards to the end zone, but the score was negated on a holding call on Dunbar.

The only other time the Saints didn't score a touchdown in the first half was in their 31-21 loss at St. Louis on Oct. 30.

Game notes


Payton and Brees together are 20-0 in games where the Saints don't turn the ball over. ... New Orleans improved to 4-3 in road games. ... Klug entered the game leading Tennessee in sacks, and his two against New Orleans gives him six for the season. ... Brees extended his NFL-record streak of games with 20 or more completions to 33. ... The Saints' victory ended a streak of four wins by the Titans in the 13-game series between the teams.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
NO
TEN
1st Downs2417
Passing 1st downs
1410
Rushing 1st downs
95
1st downs from penalties
12
3rd down efficiency
11-191-10
4th down efficiency
0-01-2
Total Plays7555
Total Yards437373
Yards per play5.86.8
Total Drives1111
Passing323314
Comp-Att
36-4718-36
Yards per pass
6.68.3
Interceptions thrown
00
Sacks-Yards Lost
2-142-12
Rushing11459
Rushing Attempts
2617
Yards per rush
4.43.5
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-41-2
Penalties11-958-54
Turnovers00
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
00
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession37:3322:27

Passing Leaders

NOC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brees36/473377.2202-14
TENC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Locker13/292829.7102-12
Hasselbeck5/7446.3000-0

Rushing Leaders

NOCARYDSAVGTDLG
Ivory13534.1025
Sproles5336.6014
TENCARYDSAVGTDLG
Locker6366.0117
Johnson11232.109

Receiving Leaders

NORECYDSAVGTDLG
Colston710515.0235
Sproles7588.3020
TENRECYDSAVGTDLG
Washington613021.7140
Williams26231.0054

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERNOTEN
noFG9:58John Kasay 25 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 72 yds, 5:06
30
SECOND QUARTERNOTEN
tenFG6:42Rob Bironas 43 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 5 plays, 32 yds, 2:11
33
noFG0:18John Kasay 29 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 9 plays, 58 yds, 2:51
63
THIRD QUARTERNOTEN
noFG3:54John Kasay 22 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 15 plays, 86 yds, 8:00
93
tenTD2:27Jake Locker 6 Yard Run (Rob Bironas Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 78 yds, 1:32
910
FOURTH QUARTERNOTEN
noTD12:47Marques Colston 35 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (John Kasay Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 72 yds, 4:40
1610
noTD7:08Marques Colston 28 Yard Pass From Drew Brees (Pierre Thomas Run For Two-Point Conversion is No Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 50 yds, 3:59
2210
tenTD6:05Nate Washington 40 Yard Pass From Jake Locker (Rob Bironas Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 65 yds, 1:03
2217

Research Notes

BreesDrew Brees racked up his 10th 300-yard game of the season Sunday to tie the NFL record for most such games in a single season.

  [+]
Drew Brees connected with Marques Colston on two touchdowns passes traveling further than 21 yards downfield. Entering Sunday, Colston only had two touchdowns receptions on passes traveling that distance over the last two seasons combined.
NEXT LEVEL: Jake Locker threw the ball well in between the numbers against the Saints, completing 13-of-18 (72.2 percent) passes for 282 yards and 1 touchdown compared to 0-of-10 outside the numbers.

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